How do I do them? Well, I use the Force of course.
On a more serious note, all of the pictures I have posted have been digitally painted, i.e, painted on the computer. There are two reasons for this...
1. I suffer from asthma, and the odours of some paints can trigger an asthma attack.
2. Whenever I try to mix real paints, I always end up with brown sludge.
Before I start, I'd like to apologise in advance for the length of this post.
Gathering Your Tools
Well, for starters, you have to have the right tools. I will say categorically here and now, if you are interested in digital painting, don't even bother attempting to do so with a mouse. I know. I tried a looong time ago by sketching in DeluxePaint - and the hand-cramps were unbelievable.
You need a graphics tablet. It needn't be an expensive one, as long as it supports pressure sensitivity. Personally, I opted for a WACOM tablet, which are the best IMHO - but they are fairly expensive. So that's the hardware sorted.
In terms of software - well, I've managed to cobble together my own little suite of packages, practically for nothing. I've got PaintShop Pro (which I bought for about £50), but the rest of the stuff I use came as freebies on computer magazine CDs. I have Fractal Painter 3 and Bryce 2 among others, which just cost me the price of the magazines they came with.
PaintShop Pro has a lot of pretty good features that rival some of those found in Adobe Photoshop, for a fraction of the cost. I like it's airbrush tool, the smudge tool, and the selection and colouring tools. Perhaps more importantly, it supports layers, which is pretty much essential, because it allows you to set a background, and then overlay it with your characters, which can each be on a separate layer. I also use a layer for lighting and other effects, so that it doesn't affect the original images. In this way, if anything goes wrong, I can scratch that layer and start over - with no damage done. The only problem with using layers is that they eat memory like candy. By adding a layer, you are basically doubling the file size. I have 256 Mb RAM in my PC, which suffices for my current needs, but I do have to be careful.
Fractal Painter tries to emulate natural media
, so you can paint with oils, watercolour, charcoals, do pencil sketches etc., all within the package. It also allows you to configure all of the brushes etc, so it's like having access to an art shop. It also supports pressure sensitivity, which again is essential if you are used to applying different pressures to get light or dark strokes when using real pencils etc.
So, how did I do the pictures?
As for the pictures...well, it's probably easier to give a little run-down on each pic.
Obi-Wan - Mauled
He was a very rough sketch - nothing more than an outline really. I used PaintShop Pro exclusively to digitally paint him - mostly using the airbrush and smudge tools. I also used brightness and contrast. Smudge is one of my favourite tools, because I can get some good flesh tones and metal effects with it. For Obi-Wan's lightsaber, I cheated and used a free plugin for the glow affect - which I have since abandoned, because I didn't like the results. You may have noticed that I recently changed the pic for my sig, and I painted the lightsaber.
Quickie for producing a lightsaber - draw a pure white line of a suitable thickness (use the line tool), then get your airbursh tool, pick your colour, make it almost transparent, and carefully go around the edges of the white line. Then use the smudge tool, again on a low setting, to blend the white core with the coloured glow. You can repeat the whole procedure if need be until it looks right.
Darth Maul - Unscheduled Passenger
I rendered a desert background in Bryce (nothing fancy), imported it into PSP and applied a wind
effect of a suitable strength to make it look like it was going past at speed. Then on another layer I placed one of my old sketches of a fantasy swordsman. I used a little cheat here, because I used the Negative function to change the white to black, and vice versa - saved me a lot of time trying to paint the figure all black, and gave me some useful definition lines to work with. I actually spent more time on Maul's head than any other area - those damned tattoos were tricky, to say the least. Again, I used a separate layer for most of the coloured lighting effects.
I started from scratch in Fractal Painter (no scanned sketches) - and I'm glad I did. The character behind Horn and the statue happened almost by accident, and I just developed them, fleshing them out. Then I switched to PSP, and started with the smudge tool and the airbrush. I have to say with this pic I'd gone so far in Painter that I didn't bother with any other layers - so if I made mistakes, I had to keep using Undo, and tweaking it to get it to look right. I'm still not happy with Horn's mouth and hands, so I'll probably work some more on that pic.
I painted the background in Fractal Painter - I was aiming for a muted rocky backdrop. But it was too dark, so I added some contrast with the flames - and then came the smoke plume...well, it just developed. Before I went completely mad with it, I decided to switch to PSP again, set the backdrop as a background layer, and then added layers for Kyle, each Stormie, the Probot, and the lighting effects. The contrast of the light on the rocks was done in PSP with the airbrush tool.
Kyle started from another old sketch I'd scanned in, and I used a snapshot of Kyle in a JK cutscene to use as a reference for adding the details. I used a lot of the airbrush and smudge tool. I couldn't get his face right, and spent a lot of time trying different things - then went back to the original sketch and just added a bit of colour. I'm not totally happy with it.
The Stormies both started as airbrushed blobs, and I went back later to add the details and the lighting using a photo as a reference. The Probot was pretty much an afterthought - I originally intended to put a dying Stormie on the right side. But that just didn't feel right - so in came the Probot. I used a photo in the Star Wars Encyclopedia as a reference point, but I kept the details deliberately sketchy so it didn't detract from Kyle too much.
The lighting is the key in this pic. I had to take into account the lightsaber, the fire just over the rise, the blaster bolts, and the Probot's little headlamp. Above all else, I've come to realise that lighting is probably the most important aspect of a picture in order to try and capture some realism. It is important to keep contrasts between light and dark areas, often in close proxomity, and to really consider where the shadows will fall.
So there you have it. A little insight into how I produced the pics. Phew.
I've always liked sketching, but it's only since I've been digitally painting that my technique has improved. I like to think I'm getting a little bit better with each picture. I'd welcome any constructive criticism so that I can improve my skills further.
Thanks for the feedback, people. I really appreciate it.